What are primary sources?
- provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation without evaluation or interpretation.
- contain the information from which a secondary or tertiary source is derived and are written by someone directly involved in the historical event or primary research.
- include original documents such as diaries, speeches, letters, audio transcripts, emails, autobiographies, and interviews
- include creative works such as photographs, novels, poetry, music, and artworks
Source: University of Maryland Libraries
How do I find primary sources?
Finding primary sources in the catalog is easier when you know the words used to describe them.
If you know the name of an individual or an organization search it as the author in the library catalog.
Enter personal names as Last Name, First Name
"da Vinci, Leonard" is helpful to get books written by him instead of about him.
Advanced Keyword Search:
These terms can be added to your search to help describe a type of primary source you want to find.
- abstract expressionism
- personal narrative
Example Advanced Keyword Search:
(abstract OR canvas OR baroque) AND (diaries OR theme OR sources)
Results of this search include e-books containing the biography and interviews as well as artwork by the Artists.
Usually, library catalogs have at least one Subject describing the general topic of the item. Subjects may be subdivided to indicate time period, or format. Some of the Subject subdivisions that may indicate an item is a primary source include interviews and sources.
Example Subject Search:
Painting Gothic -- Painting Medieval -- Painting Modern ---Painting Renaissance -- Art History -- Sculpture -- Sources
The results of this search include essays and other primary sources written by activists throughout the art history.
What about Secondary Sources?
- provide analysis and interpretation of the primary source.
- are one or more steps removed from the original event.
- may have pictures, quotations, or graphics from the original source.
- include textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, and commentaries.
Examples of Secondary Sources:
- your history textbook
- a biography of Benjamin Franklin or any other famous American
- a book which explains the effects of the Revolutionary War
- an article which includes analysis of a historical event
Source: Princeton University